Monthly Archives: November 2014

Indie Bookstores

The Four Cs:

Why Indie Bookstores Matter to Publishing

I’ve seen the world of publishing from both sides now. Ten years working in children’s editorial and marketing departments at Chronicle Books and Tricycle Press. Seven years selling those books to readers. In the eighteen years since I entered the publishing industry we’ve seen a few disruptions—the biggest being big-box chain stores, on-line retailers, and e-books. But gratefully, writing and reading remain essentially human enterprises, and the humans at indie bookstores remain a vital link between those readers and writers.

For your local bookseller, it’s not just about commerce, it’s about community, culture, and choice.

Anyone can find and read a bestseller. There’s no challenge in selling Mockingjay or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. What drives me is introducing kids to books they’ve never heard of, pulling gems from the haystack to let them shine. I feel it’s particularly important to hand a book to a kid that he wouldn’t pick up on his own, maybe one with a girl protagonist. Or a fantasy novel for the sports fanatic. Or a verse novel for the girl with dyslexia. Or a graphic novel for the struggling reader. It’s important to remember that books are not just mirrors but also windows. They should show us the larger world, even—and especially—if it doesn’t look like ours. In a world of algorithms that will tell you what “customers who bought this item also bought,” indie booksellers strive to give you what you don’t know you want, small books from small publishers with big ideas that fit you perfectly.

Twice now I have sat on the American Bookseller Association’s “Indies Introduce New Voices” committee as one of 13 independent booksellers around the country tasked with discovering the top debut works in the middle grade and young adult genres. In 2011 we introduced Divergent to the world but also Ashfall by Mike Mullin from little-known publisher Tanglewood Press. Indies evangelized that book into a successful trilogy not because the publisher paid for placement but because we adored it. Come in, we’ll geek out with you on that book that no one else has read.

Booksellers are not only funnels but also sponges. We soak up conversations and requests from customers to pass along to authors and editors. We remember what you sent your grandkids last Christmas. We connect authors with their readers in person at signings, school fundraisers, and book clubs. We comment on early stage manuscripts. We consign local authors’ books. And we’re all different, all human, readers—the ultimate disruptors.

What better day to come in and introduce yourself than Small Business Saturday. I challenge you to challenge us.

Summer Dawn Laurie is a children’s specialist at independent bookstore Books Inc. in San Francisco where she runs the Wild Girls Mother-Daughter Book Club and a monthly critique group for children’s book writers. She is also an independent editor, chairs the Children’s Alliance of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, and sits on the executive board of the Litquake Literary Festival.

Shopping Small in St. Louis

Today’s guest post is from Angela who writes the blog Fluid Pudding. She’s encouraging all of us to Shop Small this holiday season so we asked specifically about her community in St. Louis. 

Shopping Small

St. Louis is an amazing town with an incredibly diverse population, and I could sing songs for hours about the places to go, things to see, and cultural events to experience while you’re visiting. However, now that December is around the corner, let’s focus on holiday shopping. Sure, St. Louis has malls, and I sometimes use them as a fallback. BUT, I would much rather put my money back into the community by supporting the locally-owned shops which carry the often quirky items that are perfect for family members who already seem to have everything.

Here are my three favorite areas and the must-see shops held within. (Please know that all of these shops provide online ordering, so even if you don’t live here, you can still send some love to St. Louis by ordering something special!)

1. Maplewood is a small area in mid-St. Louis county that is filled with amazing places. The soy candles from Maven are the most creative candles I’ve seen. With scents like Don Draper and Sweet Orange & Chili Pepper, it’s impossible to leave Maven without finding something for just about everyone on your list. Less than a block away is Kakao Chocolate. Their bacon brittle has been called the perfect food!

2. The Delmar Loop is a six block shopping district in St. Louis. You could spend the entire day exploring the stores on the Loop, but my very favorite place to visit is Phoenix Rising. Do you need a unicorn horn for your aunt’s cat? Sock monkey hand warmers for your niece? A mandarin lavender soy candle poured into a recycled wine bottle? Phoenix Rising has all of these things and so much more.

3. The Central West End was recently named one of America’s Top Ten Great Neighborhoods and it’s known for architecture and artsy shops. Left Bank Books is the oldest independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis and they pride themselves on their collection of relevant and culturally diverse books. Be on the lookout for Spike (the resident cat) when you visit, and be sure to bring a LARGE shopping bag!

Finally, every year during the holiday season, local crafters unite for the Rock and Roll Craft Show. Last year I purchased teas from The ReTrailer, and this year I’ll be scoping out pillows that look like tree stumps. Many of the participating artists also sell their creations online. Feel free to follow the links to explore the vendor websites, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Angela Downing is a freelance editor and mother of two who writes for fun at Fluid Pudding. She is a resident of St. Louis and hopes that as you #ShopSmall this holiday season, you consider helping out her community. You can learn more about her here. 
Mr. Prato

The Loving Mr. Prato

When you’re in elementary school, specifically the 2nd grade, and the first day, you wonder what teacher you’ll have, right? You go to the office, get your teacher’s name, and find your room number. As I was walking to find my room, I read my paper. Mr. Prato? I have never had a boy teacher! I was very nervous. Will he be mean? Or grumpy? Or not smell just right? As I approached his room, a man stepped out. “Hello!” he said, “You must be Ryan! I’m Mr. Prato. Nice to meet you!” We shook hands. My mom happened to be with me. As usual she struck up a conversation about how I had never had a male teacher and blah, blah, blah. Before my mom left, I handed my new teacher an apple. It was a tradition for me that I had done since kindergarten.

“Bye, Mommy! See you tonight!” I said. She hugged me and replied, “Have a strong day sweetheart; I love you.” Then she walked away.

Entering the classroom, I saw my desk. I peeked inside. Aaaah, my favorite I thought as I admired my new pencils, touched the points of my new crayons, and smelled my fresh erasers. “Good morning, class!,” Mr. Prato said with a warm smile. He wrote Mr. Prato very big and clear on the board. Then, he passed out papers for us to work on. Throughout the day, we colored, ate, talked, and played. Before I knew it, the day was over. “Goodbye, Mr. Prato.” I said with much enthusiasm. “See you tomorrow!” I came back that next day, and the next, and the next. But, then, we started math. And I have never particularly liked math.

“I don’t understand, Mr. Prato.”

“It’s okay, Ryan.” He said. “You’ll get it. I’ll help you.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Prato. You’re the best!” I said. And from that day forth, he spent a little extra time helping me understand.

One day, I did something terribly wrong. I stole a stuffed animal from a classmate. I cried as I walked up to him. “Mr. Prato,” I said. “I’m very, very, sorry but . . .” Then I told him everything. As I looked into his calm eyes, I wondered if he was mad at all. And guess what? He wasn’t mad. He let me write my classmate an apology. He was glad that I confessed. I was very guilty.

Throughout the year little problems occurred, but Mr. Prato fixed all of them. Then, before I realized it, the year had gone by. Mr. Prato played graduation music as we said our goodbyes. I told him that I would miss him. It turns out that I will miss him a lot more because he passed away in his sleep on July 20, 2014 from a heart attack. I will remember all of the fun times we had in class. I will remember how he explained the project over, and over again just for me. I will remember his big booming voice ringing through our classroom. I will remember how he would always want us to leave class with a smile, not a frown. All I’d like to say is a big thank you to him. He understood me like no other, and I will carry these precious memories in my heart for all eternity. Thank you, Mr. Prato, and goodbye.

Ryan Francesca is a 5th grade student at Adda Clevenger Junior Preparatory School in San Francisco, CA. She also happens to be the daughter of Little Pickle Press’ Chief Executive Pickle.

Small business artisans.

5 Small Business Resources

So, you’ve decided that bigger isn’t always better, especially when your budget doesn’t fit either description. You want to support small businesses, but you’re not sure where to start. Well, you’re in luck! Little Pickle Press has compiled a handy resource list to help you find small, local, and otherwise interesting independent businesses that will feed your creative spirit during the holiday season and beyond.

  1. American Express. Believe it or not, this big name deals in small business. Once you register, you can log into their Shop Small Now page to view recommendations.
  2. Cool Mom Picks. Just the thing for cool parents of any gender, this site has gift guides and suggestions for food, gear, and style. There’s even a DIY tab for you hands-on types.
  3. Etsy. Who hasn’t heard of Etsy? Okay, all three of you head over to check out the place for independent artists in every medium imaginable; the rest of us will be right behind you. Stained glass, edibles, Doctor Who scarves—if it can be made, you’ll probably find it on Etsy.
  4. Indie Gift Box. Think outside the Jelly of the Month Club; Indie Gift Box takes special deliveries to a whole new level. Each monthly shipment brings one-of-a-kind, handmade artisanal pieces, and every purchase supports independent artists.
  5. Springwise. Not ready to shop right now? Springwise features up-and-coming entrepreneurial ideas that are sure to fire your future gift-giving spirit. Explore their extensive database to discover the next big thing from a small business. Who knows? You might get inspired to create something yourself.

And there you are! Five quick stops for easy ideas. Tell us about your favorite small business; it’s worth 30% off in the Little Pickle Press shop. Visit our homepage to learn more.

Calgary Public Library

Featured library of the Month:

Calgary Public Library

Calgary Public Library in Alberta, Canada, sounds like a wonderful place to stop in and warm up this winter.  With eighteen  branches to choose from, there’s no excuse for not visiting this community-focused and dynamic library system.

Besides offering a wide array of books for readers of all ages, Calgary Public Library also offers some unique services. Newcomers to the area can find resources to help them settle into their new homes, including information on learning English and French. Their Diversity Services department provides culturally-sensitive, barrier-free collections, programs, services, and facilities to support the development of Calgarians of all ages, abilities, and origins. Perhaps neatest of all is the Living Library service, which works like your local library; however, the books you borrow are “Living Books”—volunteers who share stories about their personal experiences!

A wide range of programs makes the library an even more valuable and exciting community resource. From Baby Storytimes to 50+ Coffee Times, they have programs for everything that you’re into. Improve your computer skills, practice your English, or just have some fun. Adult offerings include career planning and a highlight on local produce in Cowtown. Or, you can some experience historical spine-tingling entertainment as they explore Murder, Mischief, and Mayhem in Alberta, or learn about all of the best local hiking trails to keep you fit in the fall. There are storytimes for children of all ages, as well as visits by local authors.

When the Autumn winds chase you inside, make sure that you spend some of that time at Calgary Public Library!

Shop Small

Top 10 Shop Small Pinterest Boards

Throughout the month of November, Little Pickle Press hopes to show you that shopping small isn’t just for one Saturday each year—it can be an “every trip” experience. To that end, we’ve done some digging on Pinterest and found lots of recipes and cute animal pictures great inspiration for small-business shopping and support.

  1. Shop Small Businesses Shop HandmadeCollaboration: Loaded with clothes, accessories, and assorted cool stuff, this group-run board is a showcase for small-business artists.
  2. Shop Small Creative BusinessesCollaboration: Also a group effort, this board has lots of beautiful jewelry and other bits and pieces. My favorite? The sea glass pendants.
  3. Shop Small Shops – ArtworkOma’s Fabric and Gifts: This board features some amazing miniature paintings, the perfect reminder that small businesses can offer big surprises.
  4. Small Business ShoppingCollaboration: Here we have a cooperative board that focuses on online shops run by women helping to support their families. Fair Trade, upcycled, and Etsy offerings can be found on this board.
  5. Shop SmallTara D’Arcy: Featuring bits of wisdom such as “Put your money where your house is,” this board is full of easy-to-share reminders of why shopping small is a big deal.
  6. Quotes – Shop local, Shop smallBarb (Country Lane Crafts): This board offers inspiration to small shoppers and business owners alike, encouraging local spending in order to foster local growth.
  7. Small Business Advice / advice for your handmade shopaftcra – handmade American products: Got a small business? This board is for you! It’s got lots of helpful tips to help you get started, get noticed, and grow your customer base.
  8. Small Business StyleCollaboration: Your small business can sport big-time style, as evidenced by this board. From bicycle-based mobile shops to treehouse-inspired storefronts, these pins prove that business can be beautiful.
  9. Small Business SenseKaren Kovolski: Built around the belief that making a customer is more important than making a sale, this board is all about creating a strong customer base.
  10. Shop Small Y’all StatesJacqueline Wolven: Near or far, shopping small starts wherever you are! Spread the word in your home state and beyond with these fun little reminder graphics.

And there you have it; a handy reference list for shopping small during the holidays and into the new year. Read, share, and enjoy, and don’t forget to tell us about your favorite small shopping experience!

To the Market: A Survivor’s Story

As we explore the topics of shopping small during November and conscious capitalism in December, we are pleased to introduce you to the work Jane is doing with To The Market. Tomorrow they are launching their e-commerce marketplace that exclusively features products to purchase that are made by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease. 

Jane Mosbacher Morris is taking the world by storm. Even as I write that sentence about her I realize how little credit it gives to this entrepreneur who has successfully launched To The Market, an endeavor she has undertaken to impact the lives of survivors. While that’s a noble goal, she has a laser-like focus on making it work. When you make it your life mission to help people take control back in their lives, then you’re a force to be reckoned with and Jane embodies all of that.

Jane previously served as the Director of Humanitarian Action for the McCain Institute for International Leadership where she managed the Institute’s human trafficking efforts. Before that she worked in the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Jane has seen a lot of the world in those previous jobs, but to understand where she wants to really go all you have to do is take a look at her current project: To The Market.

Jane at Freeset Courtesy of Neil Ruskin

This is Jane photographed at Freeset, a Calcutta-based organization that employs human trafficking survivors. TO THE MARKET partners with Freeset for custom orders, like custom t-shirts and bags.

So, what exactly is To The Market? It’s a business that sells survivor-made goods combined with the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations. To The Market has an understanding of business and the market with years of experience serving survivor populations on the ground. TTM’s employs a unique, three-pronged social enterprise model that includes:

1) Promoting survivor-made goods via multiple distribution channels, pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and a soon-to-be-launched, curated online shop (Coming Winter 2014!).

2) Offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories with a new, larger audience.

3) Providing business services such as sales analysis and trend forecasting to local partners to improve sales and generate highly covetable inventory.

Sari_Bari Sewing Courtesy of Neil Ruskin

This is an image of a human trafficking survivor sewing a blanket sold at To The Market.

To The Market showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease.

How is this actively helping those artisans?

By assisting local partners around the world in bringing these goods “to the market,” we are taking an active role in equipping the survivors they employ with the ultimate security of economic independence, while raising awareness about the challenges that they face.

To The Market

A woman and son who are served by the Aashiana Shelter for HIV/AIDS infected and affected women and children.  The woman in the picture makes jewelry at the shelter, which TO THE MARKET sells.

It’s not just the goods and products that drive Jane to sell their wares. It’s her strong desire to aid victims. “Remember the last time you felt like you wanted to re-gain control of your life?” Jane asked me on a phone interview. “Imagine feeling that but living in an area of conflict or being a victim of abuse. Getting control back is tenfold.”

To the Market works with organizations that employ survivors as their model for empowering them has a variety of survivor-made jewelry, home-goods (including holiday items!), bags, apparel, and shoes available.  “Existing efforts to support survivors of abuse or conflict or disease is not sufficiently focusing on long term economic independence,” Jane says. “I felt like the social service component for helping survivors needed to be on a larger scale.” Jane’s goal is to give these women strength, power, and independence.

I asked Jane what To The Market is doing to put survivors back on a track to be independent. She outlined it simply for me because even though all of us desire that kind of independency, there aren’t always clear ways to cultivate it.

When your goal in life is as clear cut as Jane’s idea for To The Market, there’s really no way to fail. Everyone wins in this system when survivors are given a voice and have agency over their lives. Everyone wins when their stories are highlighted and the narrative is powerfully in the hands of the survivors themselves. Everyone wins when goods are provided to a global marketplace that connects the world in ways that make life better.

Everyone wins. Survivors win. Jane Mosbacher Morris will make sure of it.


Be sure to check out To The Market on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Jane’s blog on the Huffington Post.

All photograph credits go to Neil Ruskin


Featured Customer of the Month:


Kidsbooks is a full-service bookstore, staffed with knowledgeable and enthusiastic book lovers who help in select books and other materials for children of all ages.  No appointment is necessary, but if you prefer to phone in advance, they will even assign a staff member to work with you to choose just the materials you want and need. They send their staff to schools and community events so that people have the opportunity to experience firsthand the fantastic array of books for kids of all ages and preferences.  The staff loves to give customers ideas and expand their knowledge of children’s books, but first and foremost they want to listen to their customers’ concerns and requirements so they can make the best possible suggestions to each one.

Kidsbooks can customize orders as well, which is a great tool for teachers and homeschoolers.  If you are looking for books to enrich a theme, they will help you choose novels, picture books, and informational books to please every child. They frequently put together packages of selected books and ship them to destinations in Canada and the United States.  They believe that it is important to make sure that our customers have access to the books they need in a timely fashion.

They also offer reloadable gift cards so that children can come in and choose books for themselves. They say, “One of our greatest pleasures is watching a child carefully select a book after being presented with a wide array of choices!”

Among its many recognitions, Kidsbooks has received the Specialty Bookseller of the Year Award from the Canadian Booksellers Association three times. Phyllis Simon, the store’s founder, received a BC Community Achievement Award in 2007. And, they can proudly boast that they were the first store in Canada to sell the Harry Potter series way back in 1998!

From the original location on Fourth Avenue, Kidsbooks has expanded to include three locations: West Broadway, Edgemont Village in North Vancouver and South Surrey. With three store locations and an easy to navigate internet store, Kidsbooks can meet all of your book buying needs!

Little Nino's Pizzeria

First Friday Book Review:

Little Nino's Pizzeria

We’ve all talked about “devouring” a favorite book; savoring pages and chewing over certain passages. Little Nino’s Pizzeria is one such story, the kind that leaves your heart as full as your head.

Tony’s dad makes the best pizza in the world. With Tony as his number one helper, the two create an oasis of hospitality that brings in customers from miles away. Prepping dough and cheese, cleaning up, sharing extra pizzas with the homeless; it’s all in a cheerful day’s work at Little Nino’s.

When a stranger arrives with big ideas, what will happen to Little Nino’s?

Alive with vibrant illustrations, Karen Barbour’s Little Nino’s Pizzeria is a feast for the eyes. Each page doubles as an “I Spy,” with simple but evocative images that feed the imagination; the bold text at the bottom keeps the story moving without jarring the senses.

Little Nino’s Pizzeria is fun, fresh, and beautiful, as befits a Reading Rainbow book. It’s also layered with meaning. Set in a small business, the story of Little Nino’s shows that bigger isn’t always better, and that a shop full of love means more than a bucketful of cash.

Little Pickle Press is putting the spotlight on small businesses this month, and the shop in Little Nino’s Pizzeria is a perfect example. Which small businesses have earned your loyalty, and why? Tell us in the comment section; we love to hear from you!

Shop Local

Why ‘Shop Local’ Matters

One of the questions I get asked a lot is what accounts for the renaissance of independent bookstores. Business is up, new stores are opening—what gives?

There are several factors that have led to this growth, but one of the major contributors is increasing consumer awareness of the value of supporting their local community. The Shop Local First movement has exploded in recent years, as more and more people come to understand that spending their dollars in their local neighborhood or community adds greatly to their quality of life. And I’m not talking just about the convenience of a local retail “Main Street”; there is a significant economic value in shopping locally.

Several retail studies have been done across the country, in big cities and small towns, and all have come up with similar numbers. When a consumer spends $100 in locally owned retail businesses, $45 is recirculated in the local economy. When that same $100 is spent in chain stores, the local reinvestment drops to $23. Spend that same $100 at an out-of-state online retailer, the local cut is almost zero.

Why? Because an independent business buys supplies from other local businesses, hires local accountants and web designers, and attracts customers who shop at neighboring establishments. A chain has centralized buying, its own accountants and lawyers, and sends its daily revenues directly to its own bank. And an out-of-state online entity doesn’t even employ local people, so their contribution is negligible.

That message, as well as ones about the sense of community that is created and sustained by neighborhood shopping areas, is being delivered by independent bookstores and other locally owned retailers, being picked up by the media, and being noticed by politicians. The growth of farmer’s markets is an obvious indicator that folks are getting the message, but the fact that booksellers have been at the forefront of the movement has also made an impression with their customers.

The consumers have the power—they can choose where to shop and why. But more and more are recognizing that shopping for price alone carries with it other costs. If they don’t support their local businesses, they may not have them around to enjoy. If that doesn’t matter, fine. But if a vibrant community fueled by a strong local retail presence is important, then they need to support it. And they are, in increasing numbers.

In many of these neighborhoods, independent bookstores are front and center, often serving as community gathering spots with their events and store activities. And as consumers are supporting their local economy, many are also rediscovering the unparalleled experience of visiting a real bookstore, touching real books, and having real conversations with their friends and neighbors. And guess what? If they buy a book or two, that experience will always be there.

Hut Landon is the executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and a guiding hand behind Book Sense, a regional branding effort for independent bookstores that eventually became a national marketing campaign. He also serves as executive director of SFLOMA, the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchant Alliance, which was created in 2006 by local merchants. 

Raven + Lily

Featured B Corp of the Month:

Raven + Lily

E=mc2 is one of the best-known equations in the world of science, but it can also be applied to retail. Empowerment equals merchandise times conscious consumerism.

When you purchase from small businesses, especially Certified B Corps, you’re putting your money where your principles are, and giving a much-needed boost to hardworking entrepreneurs. In some cases, your purchase goes even further.

Raven + Lily is more than a supplier of artisanal merchandise; it’s a partnership that seeks to empower its artisans. From eco-friendly products to Fair Trade practices, Raven + Lily sets a social business model standard that aims to teach the women involved everything they need to know in order to one day launch their own businesses.

After realizing that women make up a majority of the world’s poor, it’s not a far step to understand that those same women, if given the opportunities and resources, can have a huge impact on the quality of life for their families and communities. To that end, the minds behind Raven + Lily partnered with professionals and native artists in various countries to create jewelry, apparel, and other gift items that can be sold around the world.

While the money from the sale of these items is vital to the women that it supports, there is nothing more precious than the self-esteem that comes with being able to provide. Women who once had no other option than to beg in the streets are now sending their children to school, gaining business savvy, and balancing growing bank accounts.

You can be a part of the big picture when you think small. The newly-opened B Corp online store has links to many empowering, enterprising, and just plain interesting small businesses that will help you “B” the change we all seek, one purchase at a time.